Your Student Senate Brief

Photo by Holly Lipka.

The 60th Student Senate met on Wednesday to pass a resolution expressing support for the Black Studies department.

The resolution echoes the demands outlined in a petition circulated by members of the Black Studies Student Organization (BSSO) earlier this semester. The undersigned of the petition requested the commitment of President Donald Christian in addressing the students’ desire for a “strong and supportive academic program in Black Studies.” The petition garnered over 1,000 student signatures in just under two months.

In September of this year, President Christian issued a statement of support for the department during what he described as “a time of significant departmental transition.” Christian’s statement, delivered in a campus-wide email, attributed the transition to last year’s review of the Black Studies curriculum, a process which is required by every department within the university.

According to the email, the results of the departmental review prompted a series of recommendations for improvements within the department, the primary goal of which remains to “enhance programs to best serve students and to engage them with contemporary interdisciplinary approaches to Black/Africana studies.”

Christian also acknowledged the retirement and departure of several faculty members from the department. In meetings with members of both the BSSO and the Student Association (SA) executive board, campus administrators have made clear their intent to define the parameters of these areas of study before hiring specialized faculty to fill these vacancies.

The resolution, authored by new senator Lauren Fitzsimmons, addresses the loss of four full-time, tenured faculty lines over the past several months. According to members of the BSSO, who consulted with members of the Constitutional Rules Committee (CRC) in writing the legislation, campus administrators have committed to hiring one full-time, tenured faculty member and two visiting members.

The resolution calls not only for the restoration of the four full-time, tenured positions, but also for two of those lines to be filled by the Fall 2016 semester and the other two to be filled by Fall 2017. In sponsoring this legislation, the Senate is also pressuring administrators to allow for student participation on the search committees formed to fill the vacancies.

Fourth-year senator Maria Iskaros reiterated that current procedure for hiring new faculty does not allow for students to sit on the search committees for any department. She suggested that the Senate look into reforming the process some time in the future.

Senators also expressed their concern at the intent of the campus administration to move the  Black Studies department office space from its current location in the Faculty Office Building, just east of the Coykendall Science Building, to designated office space in the Old Main Building. While the petition describes the Black Studies department as a center of “vibrant intellectual life on campus,” the resolution elaborates on the fact that the department office space offers meeting space for the Scholar’s Mentorship Program (SMP) and other student organizations, citing the lack of an otherwise established multicultural center on campus.

In the final clause of the resolution, which will be presented to President Christian and members of his cabinet at their next meeting with the SA executive board, the Senate declared that the resolution will also be distributed to Laura Barrett, dean of liberal arts and sciences, Dr. Major Coleman, the chair of the Black Studies department, and Janice Anderson, the presiding officer of Faculty Governance meetings.

Following the discussion, Iskaros raised her hand, motioning to “cosponsor the Black Studies revolution ” before correcting herself, “resolution.” With a laugh and a unanimous vote, the resolution was cosponsored by the Senate.